The Valdichiana Senese is a land of good living and also of good eating. The products of the area are innumerable and one of them, typical of the Chiusi area, is brustico: lake fish cooked over a live fire of lake reeds until they are toasted on the outside, then filleted and served with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of lemon, a simple dish with a unique and unmistakable flavor.
Today highly appreciated, it is the dish that par excellence represents the restaurants located on the shores of Lake Chiusi, being cooked almost exclusively in these lakeside establishments. According to tradition, this dish was already prepared by the Etruscans.
Carrying the brustico flag high for Gianna Fanfano, cook at the restaurant in Sbarchino Locality at Lake Chiusi, is a source of pride, since through a dish she conveys to patrons a great tradition of the area that has ancient origins: "Today there are only a few of us left to make brustico because it is not easy to prepare and the raw material is not easy to find. The original recipe calls for poor fish such as rudd, with time we have selected the noblest fish such as royal perch, which is the one I prefer to use because it is native. The perch I cook comes mostly from nearby Lake Trasimeno or Lake Bolsena, since in Lake Chiusi it is only possible to practice amateur fishing and respecting strict limits so as not to alter the hydrobiological balance of the 'Chiaro'."
Gianna's boundless love for cooking has its roots in her childhood: "I have loved cooking since I was a child, I went from baking sand cakes to working in a real kitchen, venting this passion I have always had between the stoves".
At the restaurant overlooking Lake Chiusi where she is now a cook, she got there through play first and by chance later.When she was in school, it was her sister who ran the place, and on summer vacations she went to help out by serving at the bar: "After finishing my studies in accounting, I started working there permanently while waiting to find a job that I thought I would enjoy more. Then fate, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, wanted me to stay here and so I took over the business. Today I'm very proud of what I do, I love carrying on traditions, maintaining them and making them known, maybe even bringing a little bit of innovation that never hurts".
Innovation can be brought to all dishes, but not to brustico, to which Gianna devotes herself by faithfully respecting tradition: "The recipe is thousands of years old, you really cannot change it. The fish is put on a grill placed over a nice bright fire, made with dried lake reeds, and cooked without even cleaning it of its scales.This is a very ancient cooking technique that is traced back even to the Etruscans, who certainly ate fish and had reeds at their disposal.Over time it has then been the main dish of the fishermen of Lake Chiusi, so what to add?It's a traditional, healthy, wholesome dish, and I can't do anything but invite you to eat it-trust me, you won't regret it!"
Gianna's place of the heart: Lake Chiusi
"I was born in Porto, a hamlet of the very nearby Castiglione del Lgo, in a house overlooking Lake Chiusi. When I got up in the morning I had a view of the whole Chiusi, so I am really in love with this place, I have always seen it and I think I have always been attached to it. I cherish this place and especially what I come here to do, which is to cook traditional dishes like brustico, tegamaccio or pici, which is like giving continuity to those people who came before me, making those who are no longer here live every day with these dishes".
The place the local recommends: Lake Chiusi
"I live this place 365 days a year, for me it is the most beautiful place in the world, how could I recommend another place to a visitor?I recommend everyone to come here in any season, to enjoy brustico, to cool off under the trees, to go birdwatching, to cross the Lake by canoe or kayak, or for a rejuvenating yoga session.I think it is impossible to come to Chiusi without passing through the Lake, a place of great charm in both summer and winter".
Gianna Fanfano, cook and president of Unione Regionale Cuochi Umbria